Don’t put off the maintenance

A number of years ago I noticed that the rudder gudgeons on the Hobie Cat were bent. How I noticed is beyond me since the rudders moved freely and there didn’t seem to be any conflicts with anything. But, notice I did. So I proceeded to try and correct the issue by bending the gudgeon back into alignment, which didn’t work.  In fact, my attempts at realignment were all completely ineffective. I figured the best course of action was “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Of course the gudgeon was effectively broken, but I figured that the metal gudgeon was secure and not going to fail and none of the other pieces associated with the rudder were having noticeable issues, so all was good and so qualified as “not broken” and thusly “not fixed.”

Wrong.

Rudder pin and gudgeon, hobie cat, hobie 14
Old and new rudder pin and gudgeon

Fast forward a few years and Asya and I are out on a lake enjoying an afternoon sail. We both hear a loud Crack and both instinctively looked at the stays to make sure one of them didn’t fail. None had, the trampoline still seemed solid, so that wasn’t it, all the tiller connections were still intact… we were at a loss for what it could have been. But, then I noticed the weather helm had dramatically increased, so I checked rudders and found the problem. The pin that secures the port rudder had broken into three pieces. It’s definitely not comforting seeing your rudder hanging off the boat at a precarious angle but luckily it stayed attached and we didn’t run into a bigger problem. I gingerly brought Hobie back to the beach and jumped off to inspect the damage. Remember the bent gudgeon? It was still intact, but the nylon rudder pin that was bent into the bent gudgeon had broken just above it where the pin started to curve heavily.

Our day of sailing was over but I was relieved to figure out that the fix for the issue would be rather straightforward. Simply replace the bent gudgeon and the broken pin. Easy-peasy.

Rudder casting, rudder gudgeon, hobie cat, hobie 14
Rudder casting reattached after the new lower gudgeon and rudder pin were installed

So, the moral of the story? When you notice a problem don’t put it off for three years, because while it may be holding at the time, and may indeed hold for a long while, failure is inevitable. So don’t put off the maintenance unless you have a definitive plan to get back to the issue and fix it properly.

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I guess it is winter finally

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Iced over boat launch

I must admit that I have procrastinated a little bit too long with starting some of my winter projects.  And that has resulted in winter winning to a degree.  This winter seemed rather mild until the end of last month, and over the last few weeks we have had more than our fair share of snow.   So, my willingness to go out and work on the boat is pretty much gone for now, especially if it means that I need to go out and lay in the snow.

That being said, earlier I had mentioned that there were a few projects that I wanted to accomplish on Spy Hop this winter.  Modified coamings, a tiller extension, and hiking straps.  All but the the hiking straps were accomplished before the end of last years sailing, so to a degree I am ahead of the game I suppose.  There are a few other projects that I want to complete before next sailing season though.  In addition to the hiking straps for Spy Hop I want to add navigation lights.

While it is legal in Massachusetts to sail Tiger after sunset with out nav lights it isn’t legal for Spy Hop to be out in the dark without lights.  The three additional feet on Spy Hop make the difference in this state.  (Oh, and the motor would requires lights as well.)  Asya and I try to be back at the dock by the time the sun sets we have failed too many times not to consider nav lights.  Ok, nav lights might be overkill for a 17ft boat but I believe that the additional safety will be worth it.  And when paired with good spot light sunset shouldn’t be a hard limiting factor anymore.

However, just because I want an electrical system doesn’t meant that it is an easy thing to achieve.  I have done a little electrical work in the past however not a huge amount and never from scratch.  So while the snow keeps me away from the boat for a while I can plan a way to add lights to Spy Hop and possibly learn a bit along the way.  I suppose that is the benefit of winter, having the time to do the research and plan how to accomplish boat projects.

It can’t be too cold to sail, we just walked into the water ….

Well October resulted in some good sailing, but November thus far hasn’t been that kind.  If you live on the east coast of the US you probably already know about the nor’easter that past through over the last few days.  Personally I had hoped to be able to go sailing, but with wind gusts forecast to be in the 45kts range (about 55 mph) that was not really an option.  So, Asya and I did the next best thing.  We went oystering!

I look SUPER excited to go play in the water during a storm
I look SUPER excited to go play in the water during a storm … or maybe not.

Ok, so the reality is that this was my first time oystering and of course there had to be a storm passing through.  So we bundled up in waders, our sailing jackets, and waterproof gloves.  We ended up waist deep in the rather rough water before we started to see signs of oysters, which is much deeper than I expected.  So we raked up our share of oysters and in rather short order headed back to dry land.  Who am I kidding, with the spray and the wind nothing was dry, except for what was protected by our sailing jackets!

In hind sight this was a brilliant way to test our sailing gear since even after walking into the breaking waves and the driving rain our jackets kept us perfectly dry.  I was really impressed.  Even the waders and rubber gloves didn’t preform as well as my Puma jacket.

Asya looks a lot more excited for our up coming watery adventure
Asya looks a lot more excited for our up coming watery adventure

The pictures don’t do the wind justice, it was really nasty out there.  But, at least we weren’t the only crazy people looking for shell fish.  So, when all was said and done the oysters were great and well worth the effort.  And, I am very glad that we have gear that allows us to play in the ocean during a storm.

 

It may be October, but sailing season isn’t over just yet

With a little preparation October is great month for sailing.  Both the air and the water are starting to cool down, and that’s what makes the preparation necessary.  The good news is that the preparation isn’t all that difficult because neither the water nor the air is dangerously cold yet, assuming you can get out of the water and dry off somewhat quickly.  So far this month (October) both the water and air temperature have been in the low 60 degree range.  That means when you get out into the wind it can be a little bit cold, especially if you aren’t in direct sunlight.  And in regards to the water, I won’t go any further than knee deep without a wet suit this time of year.  But, I may just be a wimp who doesn’t particularly like being cold.

Ok, so the water and air temps are starting to cool off, but what should you do if you want to keep sailing?  Well here is what I do, I start in a wetsuit and add a windbreaker or water proof jacket if I need a little more warmth.  My logic for the wetsuit is that the potential exists for me to end up in the water, all be it involuntarily.  And, if that happens a sweatshirt is going to do more harm then good.  I could just be paranoid but I would much rather be prepared than end up in a dangerous situation.  Some of you are probably pointing out that a wetsuit isn’t a great insulation layer when it isn’t in the water and you’re right.  However, it is much better than nothing, and the windbreaker stops the wind which is where a lot of heat is lost.  I also bring along neoprene booties and neoprene sailing gloves because if the spray starts to pick up your hands will get wet and cold and that isn’t fun at all.  A bit of common sense is also needed, this isn’t the time of year to be pushing your sailing boundaries.

Alright, so now we’re prepared … let’s go sailing!

With winds out of the north and delightfully calm water Asya and I geared up and launched Spy Hop with no particular destination in mind.  We ended up sailing back and forth across Centerville Harbor.  I’ll explain more about where we were sailing later, the take away is that it was fantastic even though it is early October!

Calm Seas on Centerville Harbor
Nice Calm Seas

And with a day this nice no destination was needed.

Sailing Cape Cod
Asya at the helm of Spy Hop

Sailing Cape Cod

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It is possible that this was the last sail of the year, but I sure it hope it wasn’t.  There is still plenty of fall left to enjoy before it would be unwise to be on the water.

More Improvements to Make

Sailing on Waquoit Bay
Sailing on Waquoit Bay

The more we sail Spy Hop the more impressed I become with her.  Also, the more I realize that we need to improve the way we handle her.  The last time that we took her out we realized that there is a lot of potential in the boat that we aren’t tapping into simply by the way we were sailing.  The biggest change that we need to make is the ability to hike out onto the deck to better distribute weight when the wind gets a bit strong.  Spy Hop can be depowered pretty quickly if needed, by easing the main and jib sheets, but it isn’t all that much fun when you end up loosing a good portion of your power potential.

The first time I hiked out on Spy Hop I realized that the Daysailer probably has more in common with dinghys than with yachts.  This whole year I have been trying to sail her as if she were the Catalina 31 that I learned on, but the reality is that she isn’t.  There isn’t a keel keeping the boat upright, instead she has a crew that acts as the ballast to keep her upright.  That is all a long winded way of saying that we have some improvements to make to our little boat.

Three improvements that  immediately come to mind:

1 – The coamings need to be modified so that the crew and skipper can quickly and comfortable get out onto the deck to move weight outwards

2 – A tiller extension needs to be added.  (I have fairly long arms, and from the deck I was using my finger tips to control the tiller)

3 – Hiking straps (like on other small boats, it is helpful being about to be able to loop your feet through something to be counter act most of your weight being over the side of the boat.)

This late in the sailing season I have resigned myself to the fact that most if not all of these projects will end up happening next season rather than this season.  These three improvements will have to get added to the growing list of winter projects to prepare for next year.  But, that does allow for a good amount of time to actually get the work completed.

Mind the weather

sailing centerville harbor on cape cod
I should look happier, I’m on a boat after all.

I am still fascinated by how different the weather can actually be from one place to another.  I don’t mean the weather on different continents, but how different the weather can be in a rather small geographic area.  Specifically over a couple of miles.

Before going sailing I always check the weather conditions, current conditions and forecasts as well as past conditions to get an idea of the weather trends.  Since I work in aviation I look at the current weather reports at the local airports, giving preference to the one that is closest to where we will be going sailing.  Last week before a sunset sail the wind at a local airport was reported as being 10kts gusting to 18kts.  The direction was from the south east which is largely unrestricted blowing into the Centerville Harbor.  10tks gusting to 18kts isn’t a huge amount of wind but depending on the gusts it can end up being a handful.  While motoring out Asya and I decided not to actually raise sails given the limited time we had before sunset and we weren’t entirely sure of what the conditions would end up being.

The conditions were delightful!  The wind gusts weren’t as bad as the weather report (~two miles away) would have lead me to believe.  There was a minor swell, somewhat noticeable in the picture above, but again not as bad as I would have assumed from the reported wind direction and wind speed.  My takeaway from this is that weather conditions change, both for the better and for the worse.  As much as I like knowing when I pull out of the driveway that I am going sailing, there is still the variable of weather that can and sometimes should change the decision to go sailing.

Just a Thursday

It is said that the two happiest days of a boat owners life are the day that they buy the boat and the day that they sell the boat.

I disagree, and I only have one reason. . . Thursday!  If we didn’t own Spy Hop or Tiger I don’t believe that as many sunset sails would have happened.  And, to be honest sunset sails are one of the best parts of owning a boat.

Thursday sailing

This week on a whim we took Spy Hop out to a new sailing location on Lewis Bay on the south side of Cape Cod.  We launched in the late afternoon and only had sunlight for about 90 minutes on the water.  But those 90 minutes were the highlight of the week and definitely made owning the boat worth it, not to mention the other many adventures that we have had on Spy Hop this summer.

Sunset sailing
Sailing on Lewis Bay

There are many more adventures to be had, but I am very glad that on this day we decided to go sailing rather than stay in the harbor.  Sunset is often a magical time, and I am very happy that on this day we got to view it from this location.

Sunset sailing
Lowering the sails as the sun dips behind the horizon. Perfect timing.